By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Today is the birth appearance ceremony of Lord Krishna. In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says,
janma karma me divyam yo jānāti tattvatah
tyaktvā deham punar janma naiti mām eti kaunteya
“My dear Arjuna, any person who simply tries to understand about My transcendental appearance and activities, does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”
The Personality of Godhead is not niskriya, without activities. So anyone who can understand that what kind of activities the Lord has and what kind of birth He accepts, simply by understanding these two things one gets wonderful result. What is that?. By quitting this body, he does not take any more birth in this material world [tyaktvā deham punar janma naiti]. Some of us may think that punar janma naiti means he becomes vanquished. No. Punar janma naiti, but mām eti, “He does not come to this material world, but he comes to Me.” This is possible simply by understanding the nature of His appearance and activities.
So today is that auspicious day, Janmastami, when Lord Krishna appeared five thousand years ago in India, Mathurā. Those who are Indian ladies and gentlemen present, they know very well where Mathurā is. It is about ninety miles south of New Delhi. Mathurā is still existing and it is eternally existing. Krishna appeared in Mathurā in His maternal uncle’s house in a very precarious condition. That birthplace, Lord Krishna’s birthplace, is now maintained very nicely. One who goes to India can see it.
So anyway, Lord Krishna appeared on this planet five thousand years ago. Now Krishna says, janma karma me divyam [Bg. 4.9]. Divyam means “not ordinary.” Krishna’s birth should not be understood like our birth. Krishna does not take his birth like us. That is also explained in the Bhagavad-gītā. When Arjuna inquired from Krishna, “My dear Krishna, You are saying that formerly You spoke this yoga system of Bhagavad-gītā to the sun-god. That means it was millions and trillions years ago that You spoke. How can I believe it?” Because Krishna was a contemporary of Arjuna, he was thinking that, “Krishna is my friend, is my cousin brother. How it is possible that He spoke this Bhagavad-gītā yoga to sun-god?” So what was the reply? The reply was this, that “You also appear many, many times; I also appear many, many times. The difference is that I can remember. You cannot remember.”
That is the difference between God and ordinary living creature. We are also taking birth after birth. There are 8,400,000 species of life, and so long we are in this material world, we are cycling round this birth after birth. So Krishna’s birth is not like that. Therefore Krishna says, janma karma me divyam yo jānāti tattvatah [Bg. 4.9]. Tattvatah means in truth. Not superficially. Scientifically, one who knows, he can get immediately liberation. And how one can understand the same truth?
That is also explained in the Bhagavad-gītā. Bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvan yaś cāsmi tattvatah [Bg. 18.55]. Again the same thing, tattvatah, in truth. If anyone wants to know God, or Krishna, in truth, not superficially, then he has to accept the process of devotional service. Bhaktyā. In another place Krishna says, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktyā prayacchati [Bg. 9.26]. “Any person who gives Me a little fruit, little flower, little water, but with devotion, bhaktyā…” That is the only qualification. So Krishna says, tayā bhaktyā upāhrtam asnāmi. “Because he brings it with devotion and faith and love, I eat.” Krishna eats. We are offering prasādam in the temple. So He eats because He says “I eat.” How you can say that He does not eat? Some gentleman asked me that “Swamijī, you offer prasādam in the temple, but do you think Krishna or God eats?” I answered, “Yes, why not? Krishna says, ‘I eat.’ How you can say He does not eat? But you do not know how He eats.” Due to poor fund of knowledge, you think that God does not eat. But His eating process is different. That is answered in the Brahma-samhitā: angāni yasya sakalendriya-vrtti-manti [Bs. 5.32]. God’s senses or Krishna’s senses are as powerful as the other senses. Just like I can only see with my eyes, but Krishna can not only see but also eat with His eyes.
There are many examples. Krishna or Visnu, the first creation is Garbhodakaśāyī Visnu lying on the ocean and Brahmā was created from His navel. There was a lotus stem grown from the abdomen of the Lord, and Brahmā was born. Now Laksmī, the goddess of fortune, was just sitting. But as we understand that if we beget child, we require the cooperation of wife, but here we see that His wife was sitting, but He begot Brahmā from the navel. This is called sarva-śaktimān. He does not require anyone’s help. He can beget child. Not exactly as we beget child. Therefore janma karma me divyam [Bg. 4.9].
He is within your heart, He is everywhere, so He can appear from everywhere. Just like the sun rises from the eastern side. It does not mean that eastern side is the mother of sun. We simply see that sun is rising from the eastern side. In this way, if we try to understand in truth, then we can understand what is God. Superficially, if we try to understand by our experimental knowledge, then it is not possible to understand God.
vāyor athāpi manaso muni-pungavānām
so ‘pyasti yat prapada-sīmny-avicintya-tattve
govindam ādi-purusam tam aham bhajāmi
The Brahma-samhita says that if one starts on the chariot of air and makes progress on the speed of mind, still one cannot understand what is God. Vedesu durlabham adurlabham ātma-bhaktau [Bs. 5.33]. He cannot be understood simply by studying Vedas. Traigunya visayā vedah nistraigunyo bhavārjuna. One has to transcend the position of Vedas also. Then one can understand what is God or what is Krishna.
So that process is explained in the Bhagavad-gita, that bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvan yaś cāsmi tattvatah [Bg. 18.55]. So this bhakti, devotional service of Krishna, is so nice. And under that bhakti category, this Janmastami is celebrated. Of course, this Janmastami ceremony is observed by all Hindus. Irrespective of becoming Vaisnava or not, this ceremony is observed in India every home. Just like in your Western countries Christmas is observed in every home, similarly Janmastami is observed in every home. Today is a great ceremonial day. So our program is, at twelve o’clock night the Lord will take birth and we shall receive Him. And just now it is ten o’clock. For two hours our program will continue in kīrtana.
Kīrtana means sometimes chanting with music, and sometimes speaking. Both of them are kīrtana. Kīrtayati iti kīrtanam. Glorification of the Lord is called kīrtana. The reading of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is also kīrtana. Abhavad vaiyāsakī kīrtane. Vaiyāsakī, or Sukadeva Gosvami achieved the highest perfection, liberation, simply by reciting Śrīmad-Bhagavatam. Śrī-visnu-śravane parīksit. Parīksit Maharaja, he simply heard. There are nine processes of devotional service. Śravanam kīrtanam visnoh smaranam pāda-sevanam. First hearing, then chanting. Without hearing, nobody can chant. Śravanam kīrtanam. And what sort of śravanam kīrtanam? Visnoh, of Visnu. Not anything else.
śravanam kīrtanam visnoh
arcanam vandanam dāsyam
These are nine processes of devotional service, of which śravanam, or hearing, is most important. Without hearing, nobody can understand the science of God. Therefore the Vedic mantras are called śruti. Śruti means it is to be heard. It is not to be experimented in the laboratory. It is simply to be heard. Therefore it is called śruti.
śravanam kīrtanam visnoh smaranam pāda-sevanam,
arcanam vandanam dāsyam sakhyam atma-nivedanam
Vandanam means offering prayer. We also offer prayer. Other religious sects, like the Christians, they offer prayers; the Muhammadans, they also offer prayers. So offering prayers is also one of the items of bhakti. Chanting, hearing, meditating, offering prayers, worshiping the Deity in the temple, all of them are together devotional service. If you can execute all the nine, it is very good. But it is not possible. So even if you can execute one item, you become perfect. It is so nice. Śrī visnu śravane parīksit. Just like Mahārāja Parīksit, he simply executed the function of hearing and he got perfection. Similarly, abhavad vaiyāsakī kīrtane. Vaiyāsakī means Sukadeva Gosvami, he simply glorified the Lord. Prahlādah smarane. Prahlada Maharaja was simply meditating. There are many examples. Simply by following one principle of this devotional service, they got the highest perfectional life, liberation, back to home, back to Godhead.
[A lecture delivered on Janmastami, the appearance day of Lord Krishna, on August 16, 1968 in Montreal, Canada]